Dynamic Link 2009 Group Photo

On Saturday I attended the Dynamic Link ’09 Conference at Calvin College. This was a conference headed up by Calvin IT professor Pat Bailey and facilitated and planned by Calvin IS Majors. The purpose of the conference was to discuss how our Christian faith can have a positive impact on software development and management practices.

One of the specific topics covered was the divide that often takes place between software developers and testers, and management, with each person involved in a project coming into that project with their own goals, agenda, etc. As an example, everyone can agree that they want a successful project, but that means different things to different people: to the CEO it could mean creating something that is profitable; to the Project Manager it could mean executing a project on time; to a Developer it could mean creating a solution that is feature-rich; and to a Tester it could mean creating a solution that is defect-free. Yes, they all want a “successful” project, but it’s often hard to agree on what that looks like.

A key point that was made at the conference was the emphasis on communication and empathy – of truly listening to others and trying to understand where they are coming from. As Christians, we believe that we are all “fallen” creatures, selfish at heart because of sin; we all tend to look at projects from the standpoint of what benefits us the most, often neglecting to think about the project from another’s point of view. In addition, we all recognize that we are imperfect humans and are in need of forgiveness. In light of this, it’s our responsibility to extend grace and forgiveness to those we work with and for, which can be especially challenging when we feel we have been wronged, disrespected, lied to, etc.

After several keynote addresses, we broke out into discussion groups, each led by a number of students. (Above you can see a picture of my group.) Our group was led by Calvin senior Ben Van Drunen. I appreciated learning from the experience of others, (many of whom were managers in my group), and I was especially happy that the students were able to get a taste of “real life” from seasoned professionals in the field before many of them graduate in a few weeks.

In conjunction with this conference, a printed magazine was produced, which contains a number of articles by professionals and students discussing how their faith impacts their vocation in the software industry. You can download a PDF version of this document at http://cs.calvin.edu/sestudy/DynamicLink_prf.pdf.